Full disclosure: about a week ago, I was sent a free copy of Dragon Age: Origins for XBox 360 in the mail. I was already anxious to try out the game, so you can imagine how thrilled I was.
At the time of this writing, I’ve played five of the six origin stories, and gotten fairly far on a few of them (well, it feels far, anyway). I’m not through with the game by any means, but I feel I’ve gotten enough of a taste to begin to review.
First, the stories. The last fantasy RPG game I can remember playing for XBox was Oblivion – which, sadly, had a tendency to put me to sleep. Not so with DAO – even when I’m observing friends play I find myself completely absorbed in the plot, which was a pleasant surprise. Even though I knew this was supposed to be an “adult” game – I had seen the goriest trailers – I still gasped aloud the first time violence entered the picture.
That’s something of a trend with this game. After playing one or two origin stories, you can guess what events must take place in order to put your character where it needs to be – but even if certain elements of the story are predictable, they are no less entertaining. Conversely, there were quests in which I was certain I knew what would happen – and was floored when it took a twist I was not expecting.
The controls are something of a contradiction. When I first took up the 360 controller, I felt that certain elements were counterintuitive – figuring out how to enlarge the mini-map took me much longer than it needed to. However, it had been a long time since I’d played a 360 game that didn’t require a guitar or drums, so it might simply be that it was counterintuitive for me.
In contrast, I was apprehensive about the difficulty of the battle system, but it was surprisingly fun and simple. I’ve been told by friends that you can get as in-depth as you want in controlling the members of your party, but I am content, at this point, to let fighting be as automatic as possible.
One friend felt that the fights themselves were inconsistent – that they either felt too easy or nearly impossible. I’m willing to agree with that statement, except to say that “too easy” feels “just right” for me.
The graphics are a definite step up – visually, there’s less of a difference between when you’re controlling your character and when you walk into a conversation scene, making for a more seamless experience. And the creepy deadeye look is indeed lessened here, as I’d hoped. I also noticed that several different art styles are used throughout the game, adding to a sense of history, a more developed world.
The “romance” aspect has been a bit of a letdown. Only one of my characters has earned a kiss – and then when that happened, I felt embarrassed! I think I’ll leave the romance plots for chick flicks (and those novels that I occasionally read and then pretend I had mistaken it for fantasy).
The other adult factor, the blood, is all-too present, and at first it’s a little bit of a shock. I soon grew used to my characters being covered in blood, though – all in a day’s battle.
All in all, I’d say that even though I was intrigued by the idea of Dragon Age: Origins, I was unprepared for how drawn in and entertained I’d actually be. I think I was expecting something more along the lines of God of War – lots of blood, fun killing things, but not much more. Instead, I found a storyline that, for the most part, moves along at a decent pace and keeps me playing – which is a nice surprise.
I was also unprepared for how addictive this game would be – in recent years I’ve been the sort of person who enjoys games that can be played for a few hours, left for a few months, and played a little bit more (unless it’s WoW). I don’t think I’ve been this drawn in to a console game since the Kingdom Hearts franchise.
Dragon Age: Origins is definitely worth a look – if I had rented mine, I wouldn’t have wanted to give it back.